ThoroughBred Racing

Two foals drown as region rallies to save stricken horses at Yulong Stud

Two foals drown as region rallies to save stricken horses at Yulong Stud

Dan Nevill has described the harrowing scenes of a flood ravaged Yulong Stud, the hardest-hit by Victoria’s rain deluge and swollen rivers, as he and countless others raced to the aid of the stricken horses stranded in head-high water at the Nagambie farm early yesterday.
 The Hollylodge Thoroughbreds principal, whose own property is close by at Avenel and has been affected by the rising water, said scores of people joined Yulong staff in risking their own lives to enter the floodwaters on foot and in boats in a bid to bring horses to safety.
 Two Yulong-owned foals died in the natural disaster, while livestock was also lost on neighbouring flood-affected farms in the Goulburn Valley region, the state’s thoroughbred breeding heartland. Numerous other thoroughbred properties across North East and Central Victoria have been impacted, which many believe to be a oncein-200-year flood event.
 Yulong’s chief operating officer Sam Fairgray issued a desperate plea for assistance at 7.30am via media and social media channels and in the ensuing three and a half hours people from around the Goulburn Valley region and further afar rallied to the cause, arriving with boats and horse floats. Yulong had moved horses to higher ground by about 8pm on Thursday evening but in the following ten to 12 hours the floodwater rose much higher than anyone could have predicted, according to Nevill.

 

“I rang (Ben Gunn, Yulong Stud manager) this morning about 7.30 and they were all hysterical. Obviously, it was a lot worse than anyone expected and he said they needed help with boats, so I went home, got my staff and got my boat, went over there and got into it,” Nevill told ANZ Bloodstock News yesterday.
“A lot of people put their lives at risk to save those horses. You get those people who think it’s for money or it’s for this and that, but it just shows how much people love these animals and they will do anything to save them. I am pretty emotional, I am really emotional, to tell you the truth. “Those horses were stuffed. There were dead foals when we were putting the boat in. It was very confronting, but everyone got in there, gritted their teeth, cut fences, swam horses and did anything they could.
 It was a huge effort, absolutely huge.” Rescuers saved up to 50 horses who were in danger of drowning at Yulong, the Yuesheng Zhang-owned breeding empire which has quickly amassed arguably the biggest and best broodmare band in the country to support its stallion roster led by champion sire Written Tycoon (Iglesia).
“We saved a horse who had broken away from the herd because they kept panicking and it took off. It got itself down and started swimming back towards the creek. It would have been a kilometre wide, the water. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Nevill said. “My mate and I just booted off in our boat and we were going across the water at full speed to get to it and there were fences underneath us and we didn’t hit one with the boat or the rudder or anything, that’s how deep it was.
 
 “The horse we saved was stuck on top of the fence with an electric wire over the top of it pinning it down onto the fence and only its head hanging out. “We cut the fence, we cut the wire, got a headstall on it and dragged it; it wasn’t even swimming, we just dragged it with its head above the boat to the closest point where we could get it out and a couple of people ran down from the bank, cut a fence and it got out to land.” Equine veterinarians and stud staff from around the region also answered the call to assist Yulong’s resident vets and staff in the dramatic rescue operation.
 
Nevill said: “You couldn’t even imagine this happening. Honestly, I’ve lived up here for over 20 years. You see the creeks fill up and that, but because the Goulburn [River] was full and the Hughes Creek was running into the Goulburn, it was creating a dam wall. It was backfilling all the way through Yulong.
 
 “We got all the horses out of the water by about 11 o’clock and then it was all people helping get them to the vet clinics.” In a statement released last night, Yulong thanked the local Nagambie, Seymour and surrounding communities and the thoroughbred industry network for their selfless help and support during the devastating floods. “After a very challenging 24 hours, we can now report that the staff, horses and livestock are safe and have been transported to higher ground,” the statement read.
 
“Sadly, two foals died in the flooding. However, this number may have been much higher without the prompt and courageous action from countless businesses and individuals. From trucks and boats to sandwiches to fuel everyone, the quick response and kind actions by so many in the local community has been incredible. “We are thankful to be involved in such a generous industry that rallies together in times of need.” Darley’s Northwood Park, which is located 25 kilometres south of Yulong Stud, has 150 horses on the property near Seymour which were moved to higher ground after about half of the 1,100-acre farm was inundated with flood water on Thursday. Some cows and calves on the farm, however, died when they were unable to escape the rapidly rising river.
 “We’re not travelling too badly compared to others. We managed to get our yearlings up to high ground as the water was rising [on Thursday], so all the horses are on high ground and are safe enough,” Northwood Park stud manager James Manning said. “But the Goulburn River side of the farm is pretty much two-thirds under water.
The river’s spread like I’ve never seen it before. 
“We’ve got a fair bit of a plateau above the billabongs where we moved them to, so our horses should be fine, and we’re luckier than some other farms on either side of the river but, unfortunately, it looks like we’ve lost some cattle, a handful of calves.” Gilgai Farm was also able to largely escape the damage after relocating stock before it was too late. 
“A lot of the farms up here, they couldn’t get their stock out. There’s stock floating down the river. It’s serious. It’s seriously bad,” Gilgai Farm owner Rick Jamieson said. “We second-guessed them (the floods) a few days ago and lifted them (stock) up to higher ground.” Robert Crabtree’s Dorrington Farm, which is also located at Nagambie, described the Goulburn as a “raging river” rolling through paddocks and “taking everything in its path” but he and his staff had been able to move the stud’s 80 horses to safety. “It’s shocking, absolutely shocking. 
The river’s rising at around 300 millimetres an hour,” Crabtree said at 11am yesterday. “It came up overnight. It’s a once-in-200-year event. It’s not a question of rain now, it’s about the river flow coming in. “We haven’t lost horses. We saved a lot of horses, but we’ve lost our water system. Everybody’s running around and doing the best we can.” Nearby, Swettenham Stud was able to move stock to higher ground, the farm escaping with only minor flood damage, while Leneva Park’s stallion operation at Seymour Park had taken precautionary measures ahead of the rising river levels by moving horses elsewhere.
 The farm was still heavily impacted by the floodwaters. Russell and Caroline Osborne’s Riverbank Farm at Benalla was also impacted, with much of the property under water. The couple spent much of Thursday and early yesterday relocating 200 horses to higher ground. Yesterday afternoon, Riverbank reported all staff and horses were unscathed.
 Further south, at Woodside Park Stud near Tylden, west of Melbourne, the Eddie Hirsch-owned property was split in half by a flooded creek. All horses and staff were in no danger. Three Bridges Thoroughbreds at Eddington in Central Victoria was also flooded after the Loddon River broke its banks for the second time in three weeks, which has prevented the Liston family from being able to leave the farm in recent days. Peter Liston said the flood was similar to the back-to-back events Three Bridges experienced in November 2010 and January 2011.
 “We’ve got evacuation plans and flood plans.
in place, so we’ve just got to wait now until the water goes down,” Liston said. “We’ve been locked in for the past few days, we couldn’t get out had we wanted to, which is an especially worrying time in the middle of the stud season with foaling and walk-ins and all the action that goes on. “The river actually splits the farm nearly in half and just at the moment we can’t get over to the other half but Toby’s wife and kids are monitoring the other side of the farm. There’s one paddock of horses for them to look after.” 
Blue Gum Farm suffered damage to the property, which was recently purchased by Trilogy Racing’s Jason and Mel Stenning and Sean and Cathy Dingwall. “We’ve had a lot of rain and a lot of wind – there’ll be a lot of clean up, it’s head down and bum up and getting on top of it,” outgoing Blue Gum principal Philip Campbell told Racing.com. “I’m sure there’s others far worse off than us, but it’s been a pretty rough time.”